But it’s hardly the reason this five-disc box set holds
purchase appeal. That is, of course, the chance to have the initial
stretch of Freddy Krueger movies together on Blu-ray — a format the last four sequels hadn’t been released on until now.
A near-instant phenomenon upon its 1984 bow, Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street remains a classic of boogeyman cinema, if admittedly rough around the edges, establishing Robert Englund’s hideously burned, razor-gloved killer as a nightmarish persona; that he is one both in the figurative and literal sense is part of why he tapped into the pop-culture consciousness. It’s important to note and remember that Freddy didn’t begin as the wisecracking quip machine the later entries would bring; Craven’s creation was one to be feared, not cheered.
Jack Sholder’s 1985 follow-up, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, intended to continue that character trait, but its supposedly inadvertent homoerotic themes distracted audiences. As a result, what was considered a disappointment then (not in box-office returns, mind you) is revered by cult enthusiasts today for its camp qualities.
In 1987, Craven returned — at least for scriptwriting duties — for Chuck Russell’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, my favorite of the series. It introduces elements of humor that would come to dominate (perhaps most notably, “Welcome to prime time, bitch!”), yet takes the fright seriously.
With the next year’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, director Renny Harlin fully yields to the comedy, which Stephen Hopkins continued in ’89’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, despite some splatterpunk ideas to varying success (yes to the motorcycle death, no to the comic book-inspired Super Freddy). This pair of pictures tells a continuing story centered on girl-next-door type Alice (a winning Lisa Wilcox), arguably a more appealing heroine than Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy of chapters one and three.
Obviously, 1991’s Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare is not as conclusive as its title suggests, but Rachel Talalay certainly treats it as such. It’s one of the slicker-looking entries, and works both as a greatest-hits piece and Mad magazine-style parody of itself. Pulling out all the stops, it even concludes with a 3-D sequence. Note that this Blu-ray presents it flat, so those with the 1999 New Line Platinum Series version on DVD and its included red-and-blue cardboard glasses may wish to hang on to it.
Finally, Craven became the first returning director in the series with 1994’s divergent Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, which finds actors Englund and Langenkamp (and even Craven himself) being terrorized by Freddy in “real” life. While not entirely successful, the meta approach is certainly interesting, and one he would perfect two years later with the biggest hit of his career, Scream.
Warner’s Collection is loaded with extras from commentaries, featurettes and deleted scenes to trailers, music videos and all the ephemera from the ’99 DVD set, but without the annoying navigation of that edition’s Encyclopedia bonus disc, which required clicking through a seemingly endless maze to get to (read: luck upon) unlabeled bonus content. Again, completists may not want to let go of that; either way, this Blu-ray set is a hell of a deal. —Rod Lott
Hey! Read This:
• A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) Blu-ray review
• Scream / Scream 2 / Scream 3 Blu-ray review
• Scream 4 Blu-ray review